"PAPER SONS" by GRACE ZHAO
My father’s name is Norman; Normandy
Was where the Allied soldiers left their mark
Fighting tooth and nail for a beach in France
Deep in the throes of Nazis and wrenched it
From their grip while blood ran deep, dark red like
The grenadine we pour into our glass
Astride dishes of hot dogs and grilled corn.
Father leads me into his study away from
The smoke of the barbecue, he sits and
Reads as I stand in the door with the
Photos of my brothers framed on the wall,
Air Force captain and Chief of Police;
Papa shuffles his papers and shows me
A photo of a young Chinese man with
Solemn lines and a hard sad silence
Seeping into his mouth, his eyes,
This was my father,
He says, my father was a paper son.
He immigrated here on false papers,
took a false surname, cheated the government,
Because he was not allowed as a Chinese man.
He spent his lifetime asserting himself
Without words, and when the time came,
He donned the uniform that took him to Normandy.
I speak English with no accent,
I have two sons who have sworn to lay down
Their lives for this country and when this
Summer comes to an end, you will leave
And do the same. Everything I am I owe
To my father. But he was a quiet man,
ashamed of his history.
You are not going off to fight Nazis
You do not have to worry who you will
Be mistaken for. They will tell you you are fighting for the future,
But know that you are fighting for the past.
Your uniform is a flag. His was a shield. He lost his identity
Giving us ours, so daughter, when you march, cry
Out for this country you claim to love.
Because your grandfather, a paper son,